Nearly the entire board of directors for the New York State Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Providers Alliance walked out late last year after learning two board members, the presidents of the Belvedere Brain Injury Program and Elder Choice, filed grant applications for their companies falsely claiming their applications had alliance support, said several former board members who asked not to be identified.
According to former board members, John Mccooey, president of Belvedere and Aaron Harris, president of the Elder Choice Home Care Agency, filed grant applications claiming they had the support of the alliance when nothing could be further from truth. Former board members say when Mccooey and Harris were confronted about this and asked to see the complete grant applications, Mccooey and Harris refused their request. Moreover, until this writer sent repeated requests for comment to Harris and Mccooey (neither responded), the alliance website continued to list names of the former board members as if they were current board members. Within 48 hours of this writer asking for comment, the names were removed (months after the board members had walked out).
A look at the alliance website today lists several board vacancies.
All this is bad news for the many good and decent TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) and NHTD (Nursing Home Transition and Diversion) waiver providers. The providers alliance was a great idea, a chance for providers to really work together for the common good of all. And, for a time, they did exactly that. However, former board members say the one-vote-per-provider rule was jettisoned when Mccooey and Harris stacked the room with their staff: Karina Davis-Corr, for example, is listed on the alliance website as secretary for the Syracuse Utica North Regional of the alliance; she is Belvedere’s executive director in Syracuse.
Former board members expressed disgust, seeing Mccooey’s and Harris’s behavior as little more than self-serving power grabs. Two former board members said they’re quite sure Mccooey intends to control as much of the two state waivers as he possibly can. Two said they’d never work with Mccooey again. One former board member said Mccooey “was a bit loony.” Perhaps the gentlest review came from one former board member who said the work at hand was far too serious to be spending time with adults who act like children.
Needless to say (or perhaps not), the ones that will suffer the most are the many good and decent providers and the individuals who are or could be receiving services from the two waivers. A 2011 interview about the alliance with Aaron Harris which can be seen on youtube is unsettling, in part because Harris tried and failed to define a TBI, saying the answer depends on who you ask. Not true. Here’s the answer. Acquired Brain Injuries are any brain injuries that occur after birth regardless of the cause. A traumatic brain injury is a subset of these. A TBI is a brain injury caused by external blow to the head: car accident, gun shot, fall, mugging…and so on. Strokes, for example, would not fall into the category of TBI.
As for Mccooey and Harris, both serve as reminders that Abraham Lincoln was right: “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”